Featured Testimonial About Creighton University
Whatever’s happened in my life, especially anything bad or difficult, I never hesitate to share with the Poopas because all I get back is love. That, to me, is the essence of being a Poopa.
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Poopas party on
By Micah Mertes
In the fall semester of 1969, a group of women (mostly nursing and education majors) moved into Gallagher Hall and sparked a friendship that's still going strong more than half a century since freshman year. They call themselves Poopa Poopa Pi (“Poopas” for short).
Long past graduation, the Poopas have stayed close. They’ve celebrated each other through weddings and births. They’ve supported each other through divorces, illnesses and the deaths of parents, spouses and friends.
Two Poopas have passed away — Denise Callaghan, BSN'73, and Cinda (Pieres) Helke, BSPHA'74, who died in 1993 and 2004, respectively. Before Cinda died, she left her friends some money with an attached set of instructions: “Party on, Poopas.”
A short while later, the Poopas honored her wishes, meeting in Maryland to hold a memorial for Cinda with her husband, Joel Helke, JD’74 — whom she met in Gallagher Hall.
(The hall became co-ed the Poopas’ sophomore year, leading to a few of them meeting their future husbands.)
After Cinda’s gift, the Poopas started taking yearly trips together. Poopas in the Omaha and Lincoln areas still meet for lunch regularly. Poopas everywhere get together each month on Zoom.
With the razing of Gallagher Hall starting in May, we sat in on a monthly Zoom meeting, with a few Poopas in person. They shared Creighton memories, offered advice to the next generation of dorm dwellers and paid tribute to the strange, small hall on the west end of campus, where a group of freshman friends became something more.
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Poopas we spoke with
Maiden names are in parentheses. Note that throughout the article, we will refer to some Poopas by the nicknames they call each other.
Sheila Tapscott, BS’73, MS’98
Stephanie (Stockard) Spelic, BSN’73
Retired College of Nursing professor of more than 30 years.
Judy (Maurer) Scanlon, BS’73
Alumnus husband: Dennis Scanlon, BA’73
Alumna daughter: Judy and Denny’s daughter, Erin Scanlon, BSN'03, was taught by Poopa Stephanie Spelic.
Mary Daughton Jackson, BS’72, MS’01
Paula (Darnell) Siegel, BS’73
Ann (Murphy) Oliveri, BA’73
Jan (Kompelien) Mashek, BA’73
Nancy (Fitzgerald) Wolf, BS’73
Alumnus husband: Gerald Wolf, BS’68
Darley Jo (Markham) Adams, BSN’73
Sandy (Kemp) Crites, BSN’73
Poopas we didn’t speak with
Jean (Greteman) Farner, BSBA’73
Kate Kovar, BSN’73
Maureen (Mire) Adkins, BSN'73
Mary Lynn (Lawler) Talboy, BSN’73
Alumnus husband: Frank Talboy, BSPHA'74, JD'78
Mary (Muhs) Kothenbeutel, BA'73
Cathy (Gaston) DeSalvo, MA’74 (not pictured)
Nickname: Miss G or Miss Gaston
Alumnus husband: Jules DeSalvo, BA’73, MA’76. Met in Gallagher.
Note: This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. Some Poopas also shared memories via email, which we’ve woven into the conversation.
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How did the Poopas begin?
Darley: Our first semester at Gallagher was a life-changer for most of us. As I recall, most of us lived on the fourth floor.
Stephanie: Sheila was my next-door neighbor on one side. Darley was my neighbor on the other side. I was doomed.
Darley: You’d recognize people from your floor and eat with them in the cafeteria. We all became friends.
Sheila: Some of us had gone to high school together in Des Moines. A few of us are cousins.
Darley: By late fall, a few of us had pledged to different sororities.
Sheila: But we found it was the women in Gallagher we bonded with the most.
Darley: Starting an “un-sorority” was Sheila’s idea. We got together in the little kitchen on the fourth floor of the dorm, we all lit candles and we pledged our loyalty to each other. We promised that while we may not always be there with each other, we will always be there for each other. We became the Poopas.
Where did the Poopa Poopa Pi name come from?
Stephanie: You came up with that, didn’t you, Fitz?
Fitz: I think so. I can’t remember why exactly.
Stephanie: The old Creightonian article says we were just sitting around the dorm not doing anything, and we called ourselves “a bunch of poops.”
Jan: At least we got a Greek letter in the name.
Darley: That was one characteristic we all shared — immaturity.
Stephanie: That first Creightonian article also said we had about 50 Poopa Poopa Pi members, but it was more like about 15.
Sheila: (Laughs) We didn’t have 50. I haven’t had 50 friends in my whole life.
What were some other mutual traits of the Poopas, besides immaturity?
Stephanie: We didn’t go on many dates freshman year because we had each other. I’d rather hang out with the Poopas.
Darley: If you dated one of us, you had to deal with ALL of us.
Stephanie: Most of us were studying to become nurses or teachers.
Sheila: But we were actually all very different.
Paulsey: Never were there such a unique group of women, each so unlike the other.
Murph: I just thought you were all funny, so I held on to you. We were an odd collection of people.
Sheila: And still are. I swear, if we met now, we wouldn’t mesh because of how different everyone is. But at the time, it was like we were meant to be.
Judy: One thing to be said about the Poopas — you just knew a fellow Poopa when you saw one.
Darley: We haven’t lost our immature sense of humor, that’s for sure.
Stephanie: You need to have it in life.
Tell me some Poopa memories.
Fitz: First I want to say … I really hope someone’s editing this.
Editor’s note: There is.
Sheila: Remember when … (EDITED FOR CONTENT).
Let me rephrase: Tell me some memories we can publish.
Paulsey: Our freshman year, Creighton had a dress code.
Mary Daughton: No jeans or shorts. Just skirts.
Paulsey: We could only wear jeans or shorts if we were leaving campus.
Mary Daughton: The dress code changed our sophomore year. It’s so amazing when you think of how much things have changed since …
Laptop: ZOOM CALL HAS ENDED.
The Poopas begin reconnecting to the dropped Zoom call.
Sheila: (Laughs.) The Poopas have been kicked out of nicer places than this!
Zoom call resumes. Poopa memories continue.
Darley: I remember the first snowstorm, when we were sledding on the Saga Food trays down the hill behind Wareham Hall.
Paulsey: We would always go to the Starlite and Nuncios. Fitz’s little yellow car had the route home on Cumming Street memorized.
Stephanie: But on Saturday nights, we wouldn’t go anywhere until our shows were over. We’d go to the first-floor TV lounge to watch All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore and The Bob Newhart Show.
Darley: Remember the vending machines at Gallagher had Hostess Snoballs? Jan and I loved them. One day, the vendor gave us a full box of Snoballs.
Fitz: There was the time we slammed our dorm doors in unison like a minute before quiet time. I think Sheila concocted that idea.
Darley: I remember cutting Murph’s hair. Geez, she had a lot of hair! Sandy had those huge orange juice can rollers!
Paulsey: God bless dear Mr. Cooper, our custodian/maintenance man for our full four years in Gallagher. How did he put up with all our girl messes? Stray gigantic curlers, hair products, feminine products, the stringy hair of the ’70s. We should all offer up a little prayer now and then for that man.
Sandy: One of the things I remember is how we made poor Father Ginsterblum’s life miserable.
Fr. John Ginsterblum, SJ, was an associate professor and chair of the theology department, as well as chaplain of Gallagher Hall during the Poopa era. He lived on the first floor.
Sandy: We would drop water balloons out the window onto his air conditioner. We would hide behind the vending machines on the other side of his wall. Whatever we did, Fr. Ginsterblum took it all in stride. The man definitely had a high level of tolerance and a sense of humor.
Why, in your opinion, was Gallagher the best hall?
Stephanie: Because of the Poopas.
Sheila: Gallagher was great for us because it was so small. We couldn’t get away from each other, so we had to become friends.
Judy: None of us had a car our freshman year.
Stephanie: We couldn’t go anywhere else. They were just building the 480 freeway, which we called “the DMZ.” And in the other direction, campus back then ended at 24th Street.
Judy: Creighton was such a small university.
Sheila: I would have gotten lost at a bigger school.
Darley: And Gallagher was the small dorm within an already small school.
Paula: Gallagher was always quieter. You wouldn’t think it talking to us. It still seems odd that on our two-block campus, we always felt somewhat isolated from the “action” way down at Gallagher. The happening place was always the other quadrangle — Deglman and Swanson. But we were happy down at our end of campus.
Jan: It’s going to be strange to not have Gallagher.
Fitz: Every time I drive to the airport, I pass Creighton, and every time I see Gallagher, it brings up so many memories. I’ll miss it.
What’s some Poopa advice for the next group of freshman women moving into Creighton’s dorms?
Jan: I would tell them to get involved, live mindfully and be present every day because it’s a fabulous time of life.
Stephanie: It really is. And it goes quickly, too.
Judy: Be aware of all the different avenues you can take now. With a few exceptions, we felt like we could be teachers or nurses. Now women can be anything. Follow your heart.
Jan: I left Creighton once. I don’t know what I thought I was looking for. But I came back junior year and was welcomed with open arms.
Darley: I would tell them to recognize the sense of purpose you feel.
Judy: That’s one thing I’ve grown to appreciate about my years at Creighton. There’s something special about a Jesuit education, even with all the goofy things we did as students.
Sheila: And you have to be kind.
Judy: Oh yes.
What’s it like to be a Poopa for more than 50 years?
Stephanie: We know the bad things we did early in their life. (Laughs.) And we love each other anyway.
Jan: A saying I love is, “You cannot make new old friends.” You either had them in your life or you didn’t. Some history I like to forget. But it’s part of me and part of my life at Creighton.
Darley: Someone once said, "There are friends, there is family, and then there are friends who become family." That statement reflects the Poopas.
Judy: My friends, kids and grandkids all know who the Poopas are and what you all mean to me.
Sheila: We value each other and treasure each other.
Stephanie: We’re always there for each other, for the good and the bad.
Judy: Whatever’s happened in my life, especially anything bad or difficult, I never hesitate to share with the Poopas because all I get back is love. No judgment, no “Oh, my life is a whole lot better than hers.” That, to me, is the essence of being a Poopa.
Sheila: Well said.